State, County, School Finances Dominate Discussion
-- Governor Carney to Attend Next Coffee Meeting at Special Time, Place --
The challenge of bridging a projected $350 million state budget shortfall took center stage at State Rep. Danny Short's most recent constituent coffee meeting.
"It's going to take hard work and some people coming together," Rep. Short told the crowd of more than two dozen people gathered at the Nanticoke Senior Center in Seaford.
Sussex County Councilman Michael Vincent, who spoke at the gathering, said he is worried about the impact the state's financial problems could have on the counties.
The budget former Gov. Jack Markell presented before leaving office proposed eliminating state assistance to pay for county paramedic services, while cutting the counties' share of the real estate transfer tax. Although the Carney administration will be making replacement proposals later this year, county governments are still anxious.
"I think there are people in Dover ... that think the counties have too much money," Councilman Vincent said. He added that some state officials have raised the issue of property reassessment.
School district and county taxes are based on property values. A controversial and expensive process, the counties have not conducted property reassessments for decades. Sussex County last reassessed property values in 1974, New Castle County performed its most recent assessment in 1983, and Kent County bases its property tax collections on assessments done 30 years ago (1987).
By practice and tradition, the legislature votes the state budget plan up or down on its merits, with no opportunity to make any changes. Councilman Vincent and Rep. Short both said that whatever the General Assembly proposes that might impact local governments should be voted on as separate measures, not folded into the budget.
State spending and revenue will be the focus of Rep. Short's next meeting as well. As part of a statewide campaign to discuss Delaware's budget challenges with citizens, Gov. John Carney will be at the next "Coffee with Danny" on March 1st at the Nanticoke Senior Center. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. - one hour later than usual.
Rep. Short's constituent coffee meetings are typically held the first Wednesday of the month, from September through June.